The Yankees pursued John Smoltz doggedly earlier this offseason, a source told Newsday, and it didn't mark the first time they had done so. But once the Yankees acquired Javier Vazquez from Atlanta in a trade, that endeavor concluded.
Now it's the Mets who are looking more seriously at Smoltz, as one of many - but dwindling - options to upgrade their pitching staff.
The Mets' top remaining choice on the free-agent market, Joel Piñeiro, agreed to a two-year, $16-million deal with the Angels earlier this week, and a person in the loop said the Mets had made the righthander a similar offer. It's not clear what prompted Piñeiro, who enjoyed a breakthrough 2009 season with the Cardinals, to go with the Angels over the Mets.
With Piñeiro off the board, the Mets have more interest in Ben Sheets, who missed all of 2009 after undergoing right elbow surgery. Although many in the industry had the Rangers as the favorites to land Sheets - he lives in Dallas and worked with Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux in Milwaukee - MLB.com reported that Texas is unlikely to be a heavy suitor for the righthander.
The Cardinals, Mariners, Athletics and Cubs are viewed as other candidates to sign Sheets.
Longtime Brave Smoltz, 42, endured a turbulent 2009 season. The Red Sox released him after he recorded an 8.32 ERA in 40 innings, and the Cardinals picked him up. Smoltz had a 4.26 ERA in 38 innings for St. Louis but didn't get a chance to make a postseason start, as he badly wanted to do.
Although Smoltz could pitch out of the bullpen, he appears more likely to sign with a club that will give him an opportunity to start.
The Mets also have engaged in discussions with Chien-Ming Wang, whom the Yankees non-tendered after Wang had right shoulder surgery last July. Wang is not expected to be ready by the start of the 2010 season, whereas Smoltz has no known health concerns.